Before coming out of the closet and publishing a series of successful gay novels, Patricia Nell Warren was known as Patricia Kilina, wife of a Ukrainian émigré writer George Tarnawsky. Her early poetry, written in Ukrainian, includes numerous references to non-traditional gender roles which she further explored in her anglophone novels. The Front Runner (1974) was published when Warren had already divorced her husband and came out of the closet. It was met with commercial success and became the first contemporary American bestseller about gay love. In this paper, I focus on the mixed reader-response of The Front Runner in the LGBTQ+ community, as well as the role of homophobia and misogyny in Patricia Nell Warren’s novel. I argue that The Front Runner provides readers with a thought-provoking literary representation of the changing social attitudes towards non-binary gender roles and non-heterosexuality right after Stonewall and before the AIDS epidemic.
Keywords: homophobia, misogyny, heteronormativity, gay literature, American literature, mimesis, memory